This year, for the second time, we anticipate that the course will be simulcast to a class at Northwestern University School of Law. The technology will permit interaction between the teachers (who will normally be at Columbia Law School) and the Northwestern students, as well as between students at both law schools. Amongst the competencies that distinguish good young lawyers, two spring readily to mind: (1) The ability to communicate with clarity in many different circumstances: one-on-one meetings, addressing large gatherings, and increasingly, remotely, by conference call, videoconference, and newer web-based technologies; and (2) The skill of the good listener: to be able to absorb lots of information in less than ideal circumstances.
These competencies are not addressed in traditional classrooms or traditional pedagogy. So this dual-venue, partially virtual class, explores whether the teaching styles of the instructors can be effective in a nontraditional environment and whether, by participating along with us, the class can gain in the communication and listening competencies described above.
The course will consider the mutual influence of professional responsibility norms and business imperatives on large law firm structure. This course deals with the legal profession today and the place of large law firms in the profession, in particular, focusing on how they are organized, managed, and regulated, their relationship with their clients and the condition of the lawyers who work in them.
The course starts with an overview of the history of large law firms in the United States and with the evolution of the rules of professional responsibility. It then examines the reasons lawyers associate, the structures in which they associate, and whether those structures, predominantly partnerships, remain well-suited to control the relationships between the firm and its clients and between the partners and other employees of the firm.
The course introduces the finances of modern law firms and the metrics of law firm management, and considers the importance of partner profitability and the structural and social consequences of the drive to increase partner profitability. What is law firm culture? What are its values and how are these affected by relationships among the partners? Law firms exist primarily in order to service the needs of their clients. What do clients require of corporate law firms? How are general counsel managing their relationships with outside counsel and what effect is this having on the structure of law firms, their finances, on culture, and on ethical behavior within law firms?
Professional responsibility norms constrain the organization of law practice and the marketing of legal services. They limit the financial arrangements that lawyers and clients can undertake. They circumscribe the range of business forms in which legal services can be provided. They inhibit the bundling of legal and nonlegal services. The focus of regulation at the state level limits practice across jurisdiction. We consider the practical effect of these limits and their desirability.
At the same time, the organization of law firms and the legal services industry influence compliance with professional responsibility norms and the Bar's broader aspirations of public service. We will consider claims that the increase in the competitiveness of the market for business law services has led to a weakening of lawyer efforts to induce clients to comply with legal and other public values. We will also ask what institutional circumstances are most conducive to generous and effective pro bono practice.
The object of the course is to introduce students to the realities of large corporate law firms, to raise questions as to how law firms can respond to the challenges of the modern business environment, and take advantage of opportunities presented by globalization, deregulation, evolving technology, and competition from nontraditional sources and the necessity to accommodate diversity.
The course will be presented mainly in lecture format. However some sessions will be conducted as case studies and we will arrange at least two guest speakers, including the managing partner of a large law firm and a general counsel on a large corporation.